'We had a delicate role to play,' says John Grimes of Studio MG when describing the company's part in the creation of Gaston's restaurant in Peterborough. The restaurant is the first completed phase of an ambitious project masterminded by Peter Boizot, who pioneered the Pizza Express chain in the 60s.
The building in Broadway was designed as a department store in the 80s, and a conversion into offices was abandoned around five years ago. Boizot bought the block and later the 1930s Odeon cinema next door with a vision of combining the buildings to form the town's first arts and leisure complex.
Gaston's was completed last September, five months after Studio MG had been 'parachuted' into an existing team which included Boizot's long-term design consultant and stylist Enzo Apicella. Apicella has worked with Boizot since the very first Pizza Express and was responsible for its defining look, which has remained ever since.
Grimes describes Studio MG's role in the project very much as a 'mediator'. Its task was to realise Apicella's very conceptual drawings and sketches, liaising closely with him and the client.
The brief was for a restaurant able to create contrasting atmospheres from day to night. At lunchtime the space is bright, clean, airy and quiet. Evenings bring cocktails, neon lighting and jazz music.
Interior surfaces are either tiled or mirrored.
The acoustic ceiling, which had to be imported from the US, is the only absorbent finish in the whole interior. Sprayed black and with spotlights directed on each table, the ceiling adds to the desired theatrical feel. A vast painting by Apicella dominates one wall, and is reflected in the many mirrored surfaces. The neon sculpture spanning the front elevation is also reflected back inside by the mirrors along the bar and kitchen area.
The cloakrooms and WC area has been converted from an underground car park with a ceiling height of 2m. Mirrors, this time on the ceiling, create a curious effect and provide the desired illusion of increased height. The area will also serve the cinema, which will be connected underground and via a glass atrium.
The remaining three floors, with art gallery, jazz venue and further bars and restaurant are due to be completed by the end of the year, together with the adjoining cinema. The complex, to be called the Gildenborough Arts Centre, will be Studio MG's largest project to date. As John Grimes explains, 'Studio MG has grown up'.
CONTRACTOR Marriott ELECTRICAL Hedley Contact QUANTITY SURVEYOR MECHANICAL SERVICES Kershaws VENTILATION Chapman Ventilation STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Stirling Maynard Partners SAFETY MIRRORS Chelsea Artisans MAHOGANY WALL PANELLING CREDITS Davis Langdon and Everest Scotts GLAZING Compass Glass ACOUSTIC CEILING Oscar Accoustics TILING Kettering Flooring B ACK OF HOUSE TILING Arvin & Sons SPECIALIST STEELWORK Rutland Engineering MARBLE BAR COUNTER Dialbuild